Kaiarahi [navigators] Carron Williams and Lena Matiaha from Whaiora construct a whare to demonstrate the importance of a holistic wellbeing. PHOTO/ELI HILL

ELI HILL

For Mental Health Awareness Week [September  23 – September 29] Midweek caught up with Whaiora community health workers Lena Matiaha and Carron Williams who are trying to build up their whanau’s mental health.

The two are called kaiarahi, or navigators, and their job is to give tools to people who are struggling with their mental health to help find their way forward.

Mental health is prevalent everywhere Carron said.

“It’s not just separated out by generation, or culture. Mental health can be anything from being too anxious to go to the shop.

“It’s good that we have mental health awareness because it’s making it aware that when somebody is low, they’re having bad mental health, their whare [house] is not built strong. We’re making it aware to our community, we’re making it okay to ask for help.”

Overall health consists of four areas; mental health, spiritual health, physical health, and whanau health, Carron said.

“As we work, we’re building a stronger mentality for them so when things get tough, they don’t fall apart and they’re stronger to get rid of these things themselves.

“The amazingness of my job is that I can be the fairy godmother to someone who doesn’t know glitter exists.”

Cyber bullying can also have a big impact on youths’ mental health as they often don’t have the life experience or tools to help guide them through it.

Fellow navigator Lena works in partnership with the kura to help support the students to perform better and be happier in their school and work.

“We work alongside whanau with high needs, and that is part of the reason they’re unwell. We find what is the core.

“We have to build those relationships before we go in and help with those things. You take the time to go in and talk.”

Often something as simple as a food parcel, or the offer of a ride to their first appointment can open doors to allow the pair to help guide people.

For Mental Health Awareness Week Whaiora has brought native trees in upcycled pots into its medical centre.

Attached to each tree is a note with positive affirmations on it.

Beside the trees is a display table that talks about mental health awareness and talks about heart health, Whaiora communications and marketing head Jane Ross said.

“We encourage whanau to take one of those plants and connect with the land and even gather the whanau around and do some planting together.”